Home For The Holidays :: 25 Days of Holiday Movies & Specials

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Home For the Holidays (1995)
Directed by Jodie Foster

A Little History

Home for the Holidays is a 1995 comedy-drama film directed by Jodie Foster and produced by Peggy Rajski and Foster. The screenplay was by W. D. Richter based on the short story by Chris Radant. The music score was by Mark Isham and the cinematography by Lajos Koltai.

The film stars a fantastic ensemble cast: Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott, Geraldine Chaplin, Steve Guttenberg, Cynthia Stevenson, Claire Danes,Austin Pendleton and David Strathairn.

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Claudia is a single mom who has just been fired from her job as an art restorer due to budget cuts. She flies to spend Thanksgiving at the home of her parents, Adele and Henry, while her only child Kitt decides to stay home and spend the holiday with her boyfriend, who she announces to her Mom she will be having sex with for the first time during said holiday.

The family gathering also includes Claudia’s resentful, conservative sister, Joanne, her stuffy banker brother-in-law Walter and their two spoiled children. Also to arrive is Claudia’s gay brother Tommy and his new friend Leo, along with their eccentric Aunt Glady, played by the daughter of Charlie Chaplin (Geraldine Chaplin).

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Tommy has been in a long term relationship with another man, Jack, so Claudia can’t understand what he is doing here with a new guy by his side. Leo’s attendance is only one part of the mixed-up and mercurial doings that take place over a Thanksgiving within this family.

Screenwriter W. D. Richter adapted a short story by Chris Radant that appeared in the Boston Phoenix. Executive producer Stuart Kleinman sent Jodie Foster the screenplay with a note that said,

It’s a complete mess and I love it.”

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Foster agreed and decided that it would be her second directorial effort (the first was Little Man Tate). Castle Rock Films was originally going to finance the film but canceled. Foster’s own production company, Egg Productions, acquired Richter’s screenplay.She struck a deal with Paramount Pictures to distribute the film theatrically and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment to handle the international rights and domestic video and pay TV. These rights now belong to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer through their acquisition of PolyGram’s pre-1996 library.

Foster said of the film,

The great challenge was to find a beautiful idea to pull through it, a narrative line that would make the story work.”

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Foster met with Richter and together they brainstormed and “had great fun thinking up new details and lives and clearing up the relationships,” Foster remarked. They worked on the script so that the film reflected Foster’s point-of-view and her own life experiences. She showed the first draft to Holly Hunter who agreed to star after reading it.

Working with a $20 million budget, Foster spent ten weeks filming in Baltimore with a two-week rehearsal period. She used this time to get input from the actors about dialogue. If a scene of speech did not ring true, she wanted to know. She picked the city because it was the “prototype of the American city. It’s dangerous, east coasty, urban. Yet it still has a hopeful quality to it.”

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Principal photography began February 1995. Filming of the Thanksgiving dinner took more than ten days, using 64 turkeys, 20 pounds of mashed potatoes, 35 pounds of stuffing, 44 pies, 30 pounds of sweet potatoes, 18 bags of mini-marshmallows and 50 gallons of juice that stood in for wine.

Foster allowed Robert Downey Jr. to improvise which got him excited about making films again after a period of time where he became disillusioned with acting.

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Home for the Holidays was released on November 3, 1995 in 1,000 theaters and grossed USD $4 million in its opening weekend. It went on to make $17.5 million in North America.

Trailer

My Thoughts:

By far the most relatable and relevant holiday movie that I have ever seen. There are conversations, interactions and fights in this movie that I have had in my own family, and though they sting to watch, they also comfort in that odd kind of “oh okay, it’s not just in my family” kind of way. Also, the movie has the ability to capture different emotions in me at different times. There are viewings of this movie that I connect so strongly with Claudia, other times I get Tommy so much I sometimes have to pause the movie to be able to stop the tears, and then there are times when I understand the almost always impossible to understand sister, Joanne.

A testament to a good film to me, one that I will cherish for years and years, is one that I can see things differently with consecutive watchings. A story that is complex and honest enough to withstand the years, the changing of life stages and perspectives, and the ebb and flow that age and experience and heartbreak and change bring to it. My favorite relationship has always been Claudia (Clyde) and Tommy, the many layers of connection they have, the playfulness they share, and the confidences they trust in each other. You know, before Tommy even arrives, when Claudia is leaving the desperation voicemail on his answering machine (wow, remember answering machines?) that they are truly in each other’s lives in that real kind of way. I suppose I have always wished to have a sibling relationship like that one.

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This time around I felt the most connected with Claudia, and as I watched I felt like I was feeling all her emotions with her, from the job situation, to the relationship with her daughter (especially the way they touched base with each other when Claudia felt overwhelmed – “just float“), to the emotional turmoil she feels within her family, and alone. I did wish for a later scene with her visiting Tommy and Jack, or perhaps one with daughter, or a later — what happened after the airplane ride — with Leo. Maybe that is another sign of a great movie, though; one that leaves you wishing for more.

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